Pres­i­dent hold talks with po­lit­i­cal fig­ures

Mizzima Business Weekly - - AFFAIRS -

Pres­i­dent U Thein Sein held rare talks on April 8 with about 40 po­lit­i­cal fig­ures in­clud­ing op­po­si­tion leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as she in­ten­si­fies ef­forts to amend a clause in the con­sti­tu­tion that makes her in­el­i­gi­ble for the pres­i­dency, AFP newsagency re­ported.

The long-awaited talks in Nay Pyi Taw, which fol­low a sim­i­lar meet­ing of key po­lit­i­cal fig­ures in Oc­to­ber, come as the coun­try braces for elec­tions seen as a key test of re­forms in the for­mer junta-run na­tion.

The closed-door talks – at­tended by the Pres­i­dent, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, par­lia­men­tary speaker Thura U Shwe Mann and a few dozen other po­lit­i­cal fig­ures – touched on a land­mark draft cease­fire agree­ment forged the pre­vi­ous week with sev­eral eth­nic armed groups, In­for­ma­tion Min­is­ter U Ye Htut told re­porters.

The NLD is ex­pected to win by a land­slide in the elec­tion in Novem­ber, the first na­tion­wide vote that the party will have con­tested in 25 years.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has re­ceived a wide range of sup­port, in­clud­ing from US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, for her cam­paign to amend the clause in the con­sti­tu­tion that makes her in­el­i­gi­ble for the pres­i­dency be­cause of a for­eign spouse or chil­dren. Her two sons are Bri­tish, as was her late hus­band. The NLD has de­cried the con­sti­tu­tion as “un­just” and the clauses on el­i­gi­bil­ity for the pres­i­dency writ­ten specif­i­cally to keep her out of power.

Ob­servers say she has ac­cepted that it is un­likely she will be able to be­come pres­i­dent at this time.

Last year the NLD said it gained five mil­lion signatures – about 10 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion – in sup­port of its bid to change an­other pro­vi­sion of the con­sti­tu­tion that gives the mil­i­tary an ef­fec­tive veto over con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments. A vote to amend the con­sti­tu­tion needs the sup­port of more than 75 per­cent of the par­lia­ment in which non-elected mil­i­tary MPs hold 25 per­cent of the seats.

The army has in­di­cated it will op­pose any ef­forts to sig­nif­i­cantly change the con­sti­tu­tion.

The coun­try’s pow­er­ful par­lia­men- tary speaker, Thura U Shwe Mann, last year ruled out any ma­jor changes to the con­sti­tu­tion be­fore the Novem­ber polls, de­spite moot­ing a pos­si­ble ref­er­en­dum as early as May on amend­ments ap­proved by par­lia­ment.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had pre­vi­ously pushed for “four-party” talks on the demo­cratic tran­si­tion, in­volv­ing her­self, Pres­i­dent U Thein Sein, Tat­madaw Com­man­der-in-Chief Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing and Thura U Shwe Mann.

The Pres­i­dent has re­sisted those calls, say­ing it would ex­clude eth­nic mi­nori­ties.

The for­mer gen­eral has set his sights on an end to the eth­nic in­sur­gen­cies that have plagued the coun­try for about 60 years as a key goal of his ten­ure.

The draft na­tional cease­fire agree­ment signed by the gov­ern­ment and armed eth­nic groups on March 31 was hailed as a his­toric first step. The agree­ment awaits for­mal ap­proval from the eth­nic armed groups. [Kelly Macna­mara] (AFP)

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